Karate Belts:
Colors, Origin, and Meaning

The Karate Belts Ranking System is more than just a report card on our growth.

"I've spoken to many people and there is two things in life I've never heard anyone say that they regret: Getting their college diploma and achieving their Black Belt Certification"-Grand Master Allen Sarac

There is no greater pride than having the Grand Master of your Martial Arts Style tie your First Dan Black Belt around your waist. You have persevered and conquered great personal challenges. you have passed the test for this coveted karate belt. "Black Belt" has a new meaning for you. But how did all this start and more importantly... what's next?

Dr. Jigoro Kano originated the martial arts belt ranking system. Dr. Kano, who was Japanese and known as the "Founder of Modern Judo" was first to devise many of the concepts that are the foundation of modern martial arts. Dr. Kano devised the colored belt system as a visible sign of a student's progress, awarding the first "black belts" in the 1880"s.

Gichin Funakoshi, who was Okinawan and the founder of Shotokan Karate and often referred to as the "Founder of Modern Karate" adopted the belt ranking system and other organizational and philosophical concepts from Dr. Kano, who was both his contemporary and friend.

Byung Jick Ro, who is Korean and the founder of Song Moo Kwan and known as "Founder of Modern Taekwondo" was a student of Gichin Funakoshi, receiving his black belt from him in 1939, and thus, the color belt ranking system has been part of Modern Taekwondo since it was developed in the early 1940's

Today, schools such as Allen Sarac's Professional Karate Centers use the karate belts as a sign of progress, achievement, confidence building and self awareness.

Dispelling an Urban Legend

One common “legend” concerning the tradition of belts claims that early martial artists began their training with a white belt, which eventually became stained black from years of sweat, dirt, and blood.

However, there is no real evidence for this story, so it should be relegated to the status of myth. In fact, given the standard of cleanliness common in the traditional Judo or Karate dojo, a student arriving with a bloodied or dirty uniform would probably not have been allowed to train.

In some arts and schools there is the opinion that the belt should not be washed; by doing that one would "wash away the knowledge" or "wash one's ki away." This is all related to the “dirty belt” myth.

Levels of Advancement

Another common misbelief that needs to be clarified is the "black belt as master" stereotype,. In reality, a black belt indicates the wearer is competent in a style's basic technique. Since in Song Moo Kwan a black belt takes approximately 2.5 to 4 years of training to achieve, a good intuitive analogy would be a 1st Dan Black Belt is equivalent to a college Bachelor's degree. The 1st Dan black belt is thus seen not so much as an end, but rather as a beginning, a doorway to advanced learning.

The 5th Dan is “Master” in Song Moo Kwan, and can be viewed similar to a college Master’s degree, and 8th degree black belt “Grandmaster” can be seen being equivalent to a university Doctoral degree Learn More by visiting the Karate Black Belt by Clicking Here

Meaning Of The Karate Belt Colors

Originally, the white belt was simply dyed to a new color. This repeated dying process dictated the type of belt color and the order of the colors.

The standard belt color system is white, yellow, gold, orange, green, blue, purple, brown, red and black.

Due to the dying process, it was only practical to increasingly use darker colors. All of this came about shortly after the Second World War, when Korea and Japan were very poor countries. Dying the belts to a new color was a cheap way to have a visible, simple and effective ranking system. Continue with Karate Belt Colors and Meanings by CLICKING HERE

Related Pages and Articles


Go To: The Karate Black Belt

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